The dawn is coming…

“Failure is often that early morning hour of darkness which precedes the dawning of the day of success.”

Leigh Mitchell Hodges

The lens through which one views failure is critical for creating a life of success and growth. I have found that there are two ways to look at failure.

First, you can see failure as an indictment of self and this manifests in seeing yourself as a failure. “I am a failure.” This isn’t healthy nor is it true. No one is a failure at an individual level. We will all fail many times in life. Heck, we likely fail on a daily basis as we fall short of being the person that we were created to be. But that doesn’t mean that we are a failure as a human being.

Second, you can see failure as a specific unsuccessful set of actions or behaviors in a particular moment in time. You might fail to achieve some goal, some target, etc.. But that doesn’t mean that you are a failure as a person. It just means that we were unsuccessful in our attempt at something. We have simply failed through our actions to create an outcome we desired.

The most important component in building a life of continual growth is looking at your failures through the lens of learning. One must constantly and continually seek our your failures with the intent to learn. Lean in to your frustrations, defeats and shortfalls. This is how you can create the “dawning day of success.”

Questions are the barometer of leadership effectiveness…

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

Pierre Marc-Gaston

The types of questions that one asks, as are asked, serve as a barometer of leadership effectiveness and capability. You can break this up into two broad categories.

First, the questions one asks indicate a desire to understand. Habit number six of the Stephen Covey “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I love this particular habit and it is one of my absolute favorites. The quality of the questions you ask sends a strong message to the person you are engaged with. It lets them know that you care, that you are deeply interested in what they have to say, that you are prioritizing THEM at that moment in your relationship. Demonstrating an ability to ask good questions that provoke deep thought AND communicate genuine care and concern is a critical element of effective leadership.

Second, as a leader the questions that others ask you serves as an incredible feedback mechanism on your ability to communicate with clarity as well as the overall effectiveness of your leadership and the culture you have created.

By paying attention to the specific content contained within the questions you are asked one can get immediate feedback on your ability to communicate and create understanding. The burden of communication is on the sender of the message and by listening to the questions not just to provide an answer, but to measure one’s effectiveness as a communicator one can refine and improve the message that is being delivered.

The types of questions that are asked provides a strong message about the culture of leadership you are creating. Are people willing to ask deep questions that challenge your thinking or position on a topic you are discussing? If so, then you have created a positive leadership environment that values doing what is right over being right. But if the questions being asked dance around the tough topics or, perhaps more importantly, they aren’t asked at all, then as a leader you are getting incredibly valuable feedback on the culture that you have created.

Pay close attention to the questions being asked. They can tell a very compelling story…

The contagion of beginning…

“If we wait for the moment when everything is ready, we will never begin.”

Ivan Turgenev

Everything can be improved upon. No idea, concept or plan is perfect. In fact, everything we do in life falls far short of being as good as it possibly could be. And that is okay.

Take a deep breath. Let it out. Yes, nothing we ever do will be perfect, and that is okay.

As a person that likes to do things “right” I know how hard it can be to balance between making sure that some idea is “ready” and when is it “ready enough.”

We can always wait one more day, and then begin. We can always rehearse the presentation or pitch just one more time. We can always review and edit the plan (or the blog post) just a little bit more and make it better. But what if “one more day” turns into never? What if the extra time rehearsing makes the presentation feel scripted or canned instead of real and authentic? What the extra time editing and reviewing removes the real and raw emotion and prevents “publish” from ever being clicked? What great works have been lost to the annals of time because the creator of the work spent all their time getting ready, but never actually started on the effort itself?

Seek to find the balance between “right” and “right now.” Know when you have reached the point of “good enough” and then begin. Make the commitment to beginning a higher priority that the commitment to getting ready.

Throughout life I have found that waiting can be contagious, but so is taking action. Be sure that you are a carrier of the contagion of beginning, and not the carrier of the disease of seeking perfection before beginning.

Find your purpose, and live it…

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

John Irving

What is it that you love to do? Have you found a way to make a living from it? So many people in this world have “jobs” that they do to simply earn a living. If you can find the beautiful intersection between a calling, a passion, and God gifted purpose you are a lucky soul indeed.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Perhaps you aren’t lucky at all, perhaps you are just blessed…

Who have you become?

“A goal is not about what you accomplish.  It’s about what you become.”

Michael Hyatt

Who have you become through the pursuit of your goals? When you take the time to think about it doesn’t that transformation matter more than the achievement of the goal itself? I can’t think of one goal that I have achieved in life that had a more lasting impact than the person that I became through the pursuit of the objective.

The example that comes to mind was the goal of completing my first Ironman race. Completing that race was awesome, but the personal journey I went through to make that a reality was far more impactful. I achieved that goal 8 years ago but the lessons I learned, and the person I became, I have carried with me every day since then. The process of achieving that goal shaped and reshaped me into a better person.

What goals have shaped your life? What goals are you pursuing right now will shape the life you live in the future? Who are you becoming through the pursuit of your goals?

I choose…

“Optimists enrich the present, enhance the future, challenge the improbable and attain the impossible.”

William Arthur

When something happens you can always choose to see the negative, the bad, the downside. But seeing the world this way won’t create change. Seeing the world through this lens won’t move the mountains that might just need to be moved. Instead…

I choose to see the world through the lens of what might be…

I choose to see the world that isn’t yet, but could be…

I choose to see a future that is different, boldly different…

I choose a life of more, because that is the only way change will ever happen…

Be true to yourself…

“A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.”

Vernon Howard

Who are you? At your core are you confident and secure in what you believe and why you believe it?

Knowing what this means for you doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have much to learn in life, but being strong and confident in WHO YOU ARE and YOUR CORE VALUES is what allows you to continue to learn and grow in a positive and fulfilling direction.

This morning I heard the following verse which aligns so well to my interpretation of this quote. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26 ESV

Don’t sacrifice your morals and values seeking the approval of others. Be strong, and stand up for what you believe in.

Happiness is…

“Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are in.”

Germany Kent

Happiness is…

A cup of good coffee, a simple moment of peace and quiet in the day. The sound of my children laughing and playing together. Anticipation of a birthday party for my son. Good friends that you care about and who care about you. Watching my sons sit on the couch and read a book together…

Take 45 seconds right now and think about what it is that you are happy about in this moment and in the next few hours to come.

Amazing how when you do this all the other worries of the world lose their control over you.

Being happy is a choice. What are you choosing to be happy about today?

The voice of a champion…

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears.”

Laird Hamilton

Fear. Doubt. Worry. Those are all things that we humans spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on. Most of the things that we waste time agonizing about never actually happen. This means that the energy that is expended worrying about what might happen has a negative return on investment. It just doesn’t add value to our lives.

How do you break the cycle? How do you make sure that you don’t become your own worst enemy? I suggest two things.

First, focus on gratitude. Make it a daily ritual to look at our life and find the three things that you are most grateful for and appreciative of. I have written about this before but I deeply believe it deserves mention again. Adopting a life centered on the principles of gratitude has deep and profound impact on how you view and interact with the world.

Second, adopt a “focus on what you can control” mentality. If you are spending energy on things you can’t control you are wasting your precious life resources. Stop it. I wrote more about this thought process in this post on Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control.

In all likelihood the greatest adversary you will ever face in life is yourself. The voice in your mind will either work for you, or against you. Do all that you can to make that voice your champion, not your enemy…

To go the distance, don’t go it alone…

“If you want to walk fast, go alone.  If you want to walk far, go together.”

Anonymous

There are days where walking alone might be preferable. Those are the days when a single focus on accomplishing one specific task or thing might be exactly what needs to happen, at that specific moment, in order for the task to be born out with speed and agility.

However, that is not every day. We are all better as humans when we work with and learn to rely on each other. As I meditate on this I am reminded of this verse from Ecclesiastes:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Find the right team, the right people who share your purpose, your vision, your beliefs; join together with them and you can go so much further than any one person can alone…


Remember the beauty…

“For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter.”

Deepak Chopra

We should live every day with this realization. It is just so easy to get caught up in living a life that is over the horizon waiting for something else to happen. Every moment of life in this current moment in time is the one that truly matters.

I was thinking about this over the past weekend as I was watching my children play together. Being aware of the way their laughter sounded, the games they were playing, how they interacted together. It struck me that at that moment this would be the only time they ever did those exact things. The next time it would be different because they are always growing and changing and learning. They are never the same from day to day because life is never the same. Change is constant.

I write about this today because 9/11 is such a reminder of what is truly previous, valuable and meaningful in this world. Enjoy each moment, take nothing for granted and celebrate all the beauty. Life is impermanent, and when you take it for granted you miss the opportunity to truly live…

Quietly bold…

“Boldness doesn’t mean rude, obnoxious, loud, or disrespectful. Being bold is being firm, sure, confident, fearless, daring, strong, resilient, and not easily intimidated. It means you’re willing to go where you’ve never been, willing to try what you’ve never tried, and willing to trust what you’ve never trusted. Boldness is quiet, not noisy.”

Mike Yaconelli

It is interesting to me that so many associate the description of someone with “boldness” with the negative terms described above. I might argue that doing any of the things listed early in the quote changes the label to “arrogant, egotistical or narcissistic.”

If you are bold, it is because you believe in something yet unseen and have the willingness, the passion, the desire, to take the risks to bring that vision to life.

Where have you been bold in your life? Where do you wish that you had been? What does “quiet boldness” look like for you?

It’s not about you…

“Leadership is all about people.  It is not about organizations.  It is not about plans.  It is not about strategies.  It is all about people-motivating people to get the job done.  You have to be people-centered.”

Colin Powell

The best leaders I have worked with understood this principle fully. The worst saw people as a necessary evil to achieving their goals and objectives.

As a leader how well do you know what motivates your people? And by “people” I don’t mean at an aggregate level, but individually? What motives, inspires, and drives the folks that you serve? How much of your time and effort are you investing in making those things come true for them?

Are you genuinely interested in the hopes, dreams and desires of your people? If you aren’t, trust me, they already know…

Answer this question for clarity…


“This is the precept by which I have lived: Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes.”

Hannah Arendt

It is amazing how liberating it is when you can live life this way consistently. I find it to be challenging to stay in this mindset at all times. When I am stuck on a decision the question that I always ask myself is; “What is the worst that can happen?” When you have a clear answer to this then anything else that happens is a win.

So when you are stuck ask yourself this question and answer it honestly. I find that once I have reset my mind in this way everything suddenly becomes much clearer…

Being Right vs. What’s Right…

“Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic.”

William E. Gladstone

Have you been so passionate in a belief that you couldn’t even see or accept an alternative opinion or argument? What prevents you from being able to see and consider logic and the opinions of others?

Sometimes we are so wrapped up in being right that we can’t focus on what is right… When this happens the best thing to do is to pause, step away from the argument emotionally, and try and see the it from another angle.

But how do you pause? Especially when you are passionate and emotional?

For me I find it most effective to take a deep breath and ask myself two questions: “Am I more interested in being right or doing what is right?” Then the follow along question is: “If I were sitting in the other persons seat, what would I consider to be ‘right?'”

It doesn’t always work, but I know if I can’t get to a point where I can logically consider another persons point of view, then I am not ready to make a decision.


Build confidence internally, not externally…

“Confidence isn’t thinking you are better than everyone else, it’s realizing that you have no reason to compare yourself to anyone else.”

Maryam Hasnaa

What is it that you can honestly say you do well, and with great joy and competency, that you don’t feel the need to compare yourself to anyone else?

When you find this, and are comfortable with being quietly competent without the need to compare yourself to others in a fashion that diminishes their skills and gifts, you have achieved what I define as confidence.

So much of our world today is built around the need to prove ourselves better than others. That is the antithesis of confidence in my mind. I would strongly argue that if you feel the need to do ANYTHING that puts you in a position to be dependent on either the “likes” of others, or in a position that directly puts others down, that you are lacking in true confidence.

So how do you achieve confidence in a world that is built on comparison to others? Find what brings you joy, that which you do well, and that you can do in a manner where the only comparison is within yourself and your desire to grow and improve. Confidence is built internally, not externally.

Decision filters…

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

I have used this verse as the daily quote before, in fact I used it earlier this year and you can read that blog post here. In that post I wrote about the impact of looking at your day and your life through the lens of answering questions on whether or not you served others and that being the ultimate measure of your success in life.

I chose this verse today thinking about it more as a compass and a guide to start and use throughout the day, not from the perspective as a rear-view mirror. Both viewpoints are important, but in order to measure progress you must first have a clear vision of where you are going.

How effective are you at living a life that is true to this verse on a daily basis? Regardless of your religious beliefs the wisdom here is so incredibly impactful when you apply it to your life and how you live and serve. If you were to truly gauge each decision you make, each action you take, by thinking about this verse before the choice, before the action, would you still take the same course of action?

My challenge to you to day is to pause with each decision you make today and ask yourself who you are serving with the action you are about to take? Be brutally honest with yourself. See if you still like the decision after running it through this filter. You might surprise yourself…

Every. Single. Day.

 “Don’t cheat the world of your contribution. Give it what you’ve got.”

Steven Pressfield

What is the difference you are going to make in the life of one other person today? This isn’t a rhetorical question. Stop now, get a pen and paper and write down a name and write down what you are going to do. Be specific. At the end of the day, look at this note and take great satisfaction that you chose to contribute to another person very intentionally. Doing this act might be your greatest contribution for the day.

The world isn’t where we should focus our energy. Instead we should focus on the one or two lives we can impact the most through our gifts. That is our greatest contribution, to live life fully in this way. Every. Single. Day.

Just go help someone…

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

Barack Obama

There is nothing worst than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. Get up. Go do something. Anything.

Sometimes all it takes is simply deciding to do something and that is what makes the difference. No one ever accomplished great things sitting on their rear end. Go find something good to do for someone else. Not because you feel like it, but because it will mean something to another person.

That’s why we are here right? To make a difference in the lives of others, to give them hope for a brighter day and a better way.

How are you going to make a difference for just one person today? Don’t answer this question later, answer it now. Then do it.

Prepare yourself in order to give…

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

Eleanor Brown

How often do you take the time to rest and recharge? I find that it is harder to do than ever before. The demands on our time, both to serve others and to serve ourselves, is constant. We all need rest, but knowing we need it, and actually doing it are very different things.

How is it that you define rest? What is it that gives you peace on your heart and in your soul that then translates to rest physically? The answer to these questions will be unique for each of us and they will likely be different at times depending on what is going on in your life and what kind of nourishment you need.

For me, rest can be as simple as dedicated time in the morning on Sunday’s with my journal and a cup of coffee (or two…) and just reading, writing and reflecting on what is truly important in life. Rest for me also means disconnecting from the electronic leash and getting out to experience God’s Kingdom. Recently my bride and I were in Colorado and we did a 12-mile backcountry hike into the Rocky Mountain National Park. That was a day of great rest for me personally though I am sure that for others the idea of doing something like that is anything but restful. You have to find your restful place.

North Fork Big Thompson River

To care for others, you must also care for yourself. You must define the rest you need, find the time for it, and make it happen. When you do, you will find that instead of seeing service to others as an energy drain, you will view it as a gift to give. It is a gift that we have an obligation and a calling to pursue. Take the time you need to optimize you abilities to give and serve…

Open your gifts…


“The buried talent is the sunken rock on which most lives strike and founder.”

Frederick William Faber

What is the talent or gift that you have left buried in your life?

Why is it still buried? Fear of failure? Inability to recognize the talent itself? Lack of desire to put in the effort to bring it to the surface?

But what if it wasn’t buried? How might your life be different if you embraced your buried talent and made it a gift, not just to yourself, but for others?

The challenge, as I see it, is that if you don’t seize every opportunity to bring your talents to the surface you are creating a life that WILL BE filled with regret and disappointment.

So why wait until it is too late? The timing will never be perfect. The stars might not align in just the right way. Your talent might be one that only serves to bring joy and appreciation to your life. But if you are happy, that has a cascade effect to those that you share your life with.

Don’t be content to leave the gifts you have been given under the surface. They are gifts, open them…

Allow no easy days…

“Nothing really worth having is easy to get. The hard-fought battles, the goals won with sacrifice, are the ones that matter.”

Aisha Tyler

If it is easy to achieve, easy to get, easy to do, then it just can’t and won’t be valued. But those things that you have to put in blood, sweat and tears to accomplish, those are the things that matter. Think of it this way, does accomplishing easy things motivate you to put in extra effort? Of course not, easy things aren’t the ones that motivate and stir your soul.

Ask yourself this question: What is it that motivates you to give the extra energy, the discretionary effort, the ability to do whatever it takes to get the job done? Find that, and then do it! Don’t allow easy days to become your normal…

Go catch fish…

“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.”

Ovid

I don’t believe in chance or in “cosmic coincidence.” Things happen for a reason and for a purpose, even if we don’t understand them in a given time.

I love this quote because it speaks to the power of positivity and positive thinking and always being ready for that fish to bite. To be ready you have to be preparing and looking for the best in life and have a perspective of gratitude for all the gifts and blessings that have led you to be in exactly the right place and moment to catch the fish.

Seasons…

“If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.”

General Eric Shinseki

This has long been one of my favorite quotes. Change is a natural state of the world. Today change happens at an ever faster rate and we have to be able to adapt to new ways of thinking and doing things. If you aren’t willing to change, then you are choosing to be in the passenger seat of this bus we call life.

For those that aren’t comfortable with change, and at times that happens to all of us, I find this verse from Ecclesiastes to be both comforting and inspiring.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

If you want to be relevant first take the time to think of how you need to change…

Be inspired…

“Inspiration doesn’t usually show up until you do.”

Michael Hyatt

If you are waiting to “get inspired” to do something great then what are you really waiting on? The perfect moment? The stars to align? For a magic fairy to appear and make all your dreams come true?

Waiting for inspiration is just an excuse for being lazy. There is no such thing as the “overnight success.” Either you show up, do the work, and put in the blood, sweat and tears. Or you don’t. It’s your choice. Waiting for inspiration is just another way of saying “I don’t really have enough desire to do this.” Ask yourself is this is an acceptable outcome. If it isn’t, then there is your inspiration. Channel it into something special…

Two types of silence…

“The word ‘listen’ contains the same letters as the word ‘silent’.”

Alfred Brendel

How can you truly listen if you aren’t silent? For the record that means both the external voice which is always ready to respond, and the internal voice that is constantly running in the background (at least mine is…). If you are going to seek to learn from others, then you must ready to be truly silent, physically and mentally. Otherwise you aren’t really listening. And if you aren’t listening, you aren’t learning…


What’s your score?

“The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.”

Andrew Carnegie

Where do you fall on this scale of energy and ability investment into your work? Are you “average?” Of course no one wants to be average so I assume that everyone would score themselves higher than 25%. But are you able to honestly say that you regularly put in more than 50% of your capacity?

If the answer is “no,” then why not? Not every day is going to be a 100% effort, or even a 50% effort kind of day. But the days where you invest over 50% should outnumber those that don’t. If that isn’t happening then perhaps there is something else going on.

If you are doing work that just doesn’t inspire and motivate you then let’s be honest, sometimes giving 25% can feel like 100%. It can feel like trying to fill a bucket that has tons of holes in it. No matter how much water you pour in, it simply won’t fill up.

There are two key components that are critical for you to score high on the work investment scale. One is the work itself, do you find it motivating and rewarding? The second is deeply understanding your “why.” Do you have a burning “why” that pushes you forward regardless of the work you are doing at the time?

Either the work will have to motivate you, or the “why” should. When you find both, that is when the magic happens. That’s how you score 100%.

“Why” fuel…

“Whatever the struggle, continue the climb. It may be only one step to the summit.”

Diane Westlake 

Sometimes it is when you are just ready to give up that the breakthrough occurs. When faced with discouragement and you are at the place where quitting seems like the easier option, take the time necessary to reconnect with your “why.” Why are you doing this challenge or initiative? Why is this important? Understanding and reconnecting with your “why” can provide all the fuel you need for the next step.

Tomorrow starts tonight…

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

There is nothing like the dawn of a new day to reset and refocus the mind. Though I think the same can be said for the end of the day as well. When you set aside a few minutes to reflect at the end of the day, learn from what went well, and what didn’t, and frame out the day to come you can rest much easier and rise ready to tackle the day ahead. That’s when you can demonstrate new strengths and generate new thoughts. It starts the night before…

Recognize and act…

“One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

Arnold Glasgow

Why do problems become emergencies? Is it because no one recognized that the problem was there? That is certainly a possibility and at times this certainly happens. But the far more likely, and damning , reason is that no one did anything about the problem when they recognized it.

This is the mark of true leadership in my mind, doing something about the problem once you become aware of it. You can’t put Pandora back in the box. Why ignore the problem? It won’t go away by itself and there is no one to blame but yourself if it turns into an emergency.

Be happy…

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so, wants nothing.” 

Seneca

Every day our world and society demands us to want more things. That we should covet more stuff, more experiences, all those things that others have and we don’t. It can feel like the entire world is aimed at helping us focus on what we don’t have RIGHT NOW and thus seeding discontentment and disappointment.

Now there is nothing wrong with dreams and goals. Nothing wrong with desiring to do and be more in our one “wild and precious life.” Obviously I have written about the power of goals many times. The disconnect occurs when those things are all that one thinks about, worries about, stresses over or devotes themselves to becoming.

Living for the future is to neglect the incredible gifts and blessings we have been given TODAY. I personally fight this battle constantly, and it has been a constant battle through my life. It is a daily struggle to put down the focus on tomorrow and to simply be in the moment today. But when I do it, and shift my energy to being fully present with gratitude for exactly where I am TODAY all the seeds of discontentment and anxiety disappear as if blown away by a strong wind.

Ask yourself this question: What is it today that I am most grateful for in my life? I have found that answering this question has an amazing way of pulling one back to the present moment and focusing energy on where one is. It keeps the distractions of life at bay and for those, like me, who have a tendency to live in and for the future, it puts me solidly in the present moment. Try it out, write it down every morning and see what happens. You might find yourself happier than you have ever been.

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